BLURTING WITH… The String Cheese Incident

Guitarist and co-founder Bill Nershi talks about the
beloved jam band’s recent Roots Run Deep tour and more.

 

TEXT/PHOTOS BY KLAUS NYMAN

 

Family roots and fan roots
have grown together, reconnecting String Cheese Incident and fans through 14 Incidents
lasting 16 days in November and December as the Roots Run Deep tour. Talking to
BLURT shortly before a three-night residency at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, guitarist Bill
Nershi opened up about how and why the band reunited for the tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLURT: So
this current venture on the road is called ‘Roots Run Deep’. Is this referring
to the group reconnecting? Would you care to elaborate on that a bit?

BILL NERSHI: Roots Run Deep is from a song, “Restless
Wind,” and the song was about family, about losing a cousin, that I looked up
to a lot. The Roots Run Deep aspect of the song is that there are ties with
families, which run deep and stay with you forever. That was the origination of
the lyrics.

        Originally I wanted to write a
bluegrass song for the band, and hadn’t intended it to be about that specific
thing about my cousin, which hit all of our families really hard. Sometimes
songs you don’t know, but it just starts creating itself, and it just came to
me. I wrote and brought it into the band.

        And yes, there’s a reconnection with
the band. There are lots of things that we are trying to reconnect with on this
tour on an every day basis, as opposed the weekend ‘one-offs’. Night after
night of reconnecting, for us to figure out if this is going to work, because
we haven’t toured since 2006. It’s a reconnection and a chance to be out there
every night to reconnect with the fans, and give the fans a chance to reconnect
with friends that they used to travel with and meet at shows, and see, and to
have a bond there you know.

 

Would you care to share with the readers briefly how
music was a part of your life growing up, and if your family had an influence
on that?

Growing up on the east coast,
well we just got done doing this run in Baltimore,
New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
I’ve been seeing a lot of family on the tour. So it’s been sort of a music
tour/family reunion. I’m the youngest of six, my four brothers and sister all
played guitar. There were guitars around the house. I just picked up what we
had in the house. I probably didn’t get my own guitar until I was about 13. My
sister Ellie, my brother Dave, and my brother Ken all played. We had loads of
music books, and listened to a lot of music. That’s the way we passed a lot of
our time, by playing together.

 

 

 

 

 

On tour what venues does the band look forward to
playing, and what would you say are some of your favorite cities to perform in?

Well there’s some venues that
are really cool that we look forward to playing. The Ryman is really special to
us. We had a few musical guests that came out and played, Sam Bush, Stewart
Duncan, and Andy Hall with the Stringdusters. We played the Fox in Atlanta, an amazingly beautiful theater, then from that to
the smallest show of the tour, the Georgia Theater.
That is special to us because that’s where Athens, Georgia
is and where our management company originated. The Georgia
Theater
burned down and they rebuilt it. We’ve had some great gigs down their, and this
was our first time back in that venue. We had a great time in New York City, at The United Palace, and that
was a high-energy show. Being in New
York City, it starts to have this really big energy
about it. And now we are really looking forward to set up for three nights in Chicago.

 

It’s pretty common amongst fans when attending your
shows to ask, “Is this your first Incident”? Would you care to elaborate?

Every show is an Incident and
we hope that every show has a unique personality to it, you know? So you can
come to five or six shows on a tour and each one has a different personality. Each
show has different music played and we hope fans walk out with some uniqueness
to the evening. Each show is its own incident, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

As far as writing goes amongst the guys, is there a
consistent dynamic or any particular order when composing your music?

Generally there is, a lot of
the time songs are written by individuals and brought in, which is mainly the
case. Sometimes we collaborate, but more often than not a person will bring a
song into the band, and say these are the nuts and bolts according to the song,
and then the band will play it. Then often times the band will have a big part
arranging the song or suggest a space in the song where we can open up for
improvising. It’s important to have an open mind. Some of the best songs we
play have been written by band members individually. Every song brought to the
table takes on a new direction. It starts off one way and ends another. Its
personality can change completely. Some of the best songs that we play have
gone through that process.  

 

 Typically
when you write for an album are there songs that are not chosen for the album,
and if so will we ever get to hear those songs?

Generally there’s more song
ideas than there’s room for on an album, and now I think that the way we’re
looking at it is maybe not putting out an album per se, but taking different
groups of songs, and releasing them as smaller groups from the different styles
that we play. There are a lot of different styles that we go through. It
doesn’t have to be album format, which I don’t see the need for that anymore.
And we can hit on more of the songs and pair them together with other songs
that they relate to and make sense with. We are recording and multi-tracking
all the music from this tour and planning on going into the studio with some of
the live stuff and polishing it up, and seeing what we can come up with from
the tour.

 

 Do you have
a preferred producer or recording engineer you work with when recording?

We haven’t used the same
producer twice on any of the albums, we’ve changed producers, we have an
engineer in the Boulder
area that we like working with. As far as production goes, we’re going to see
with this live process, because sometimes there doesn’t need to be a producer.
We might choose a different producer for different hooks or songs that come
out, but it’s definitely on a recording-by-recording basis that we deal with
production.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you or any of the fellas have any New Years
resolutions?

It’s not New Year’s yet, but
that’s a good idea. I’ll start thinking about that. My New Year’s resolution is
to get out and ski more, you know, get out of the house and go skiing. Most of
us try to get skiing in, and Mike’s out in California
now so I think he goes surfing more than he goes skiing, but the rest of us
definitely like to get out on the mountain and make some turns.

 

 In
parting, is there anything that you would like to share with the readers?

Chicago’s been a pretty special place for String Cheese, and
we had some thanksgiving shows years past that were really special, and we’re excited
to have 3 nights to really dig in, and go some places here in Chicago.

 

 

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